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CRITERIA FOR WAC DESIGNATION

2000-4000 Level WAC Courses

 Syllabi for new Writing Across Curriculum courses must be submitted to the WAC Committee at least three months prior to the expected date of course implementation.  The WAC committee will review syllabi and will notify the author of approval, denial, or recommendations for revision.

  All faculty who teach WAC courses will either attend a three-day WAC Curriculum Development seminar or a training program that is collaboratively determined by the Director of WAC and representatives within departments that are sponsoring the courses. 

  To receive a WAC designation, the 3-credit course, capped at 27 students, will provide a syllabus that does the following 1:  

  1. inform students of the writing-intensive nature of the course and explain that WAC courses at FAU fulfill  the state mandated Gordon Rule requirements if the course is passed with a C or better 2;
  2. include writing assignments that engage students in intellectual activities central to the course objectives;   
  3. include at least two graded writing assignments completed out of class, one of which must be an individually or collaboratively written, substantial, thesis-driven paper (a revision is a substantial reworking of a draft as distinct from editing and correction of surface errors);           
  4. count writing assignments for at least 50% of the course grade;      
  5. provide a short, clear, written description of each writing assignment and its evaluation criteria;
  6. provide a schedule for writing assignments that allocates class time for discussing strategies to improve student writing;
  7. require students to make substantial revision(s) of at least one graded,  thesis-driven, out-of-class writing assignment;         
  8. include an explanation of how students will receive substantive written feedback on graded assignments and drafts that students are required to revise;
  9. require each student to write a target of 5,000 words (+/- 1,000);
  10. include the following language informing students about the University wide WAC Assessment project:

  If this class is selected to participate in the university-wide WAC assessment program, you will be required to access the online assessment server, complete the consent form and survey, and submit electronically a first and final draft of a near-end-of-term-paper.       

  Deviations from any of the above criteria will need to be justified in writing for review and certification purposes.

  For sample syllabi, information on these criteria and suggestions for teaching WAC courses, please refer to the Approved Courses section of the WAC website. This and additional helpful information and links will be posted on the WAC web site: www.fau.edu/WAC.    

Explanation of Criteria for WAC Designation

2000-4000 Level Courses

  Since April 2004, when FAU’s administration mandated a Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) initiative, a set of criteria have been carefully developed as a way of simplifying (and making transparent) the WAC certification process, and assuring that values central to WAC pedagogy are represented in syllabi that receive the WAC designation.  The following material for the University-mandated Writing Across the Curriculum program explains the criteria for 2000-4000 level WAC/Gordon Rule courses.  They further FAU’s long-term commitment to improve teaching and writing-to-learn across the all of FAU’s campuses.  For an explanation of the writing support available through FAU’s University Center for Excellence in Writing, please visit the UCEW website: http://www.fau.edu/UCEW.

  WAC Seminars:

  All faculty who teach WAC courses will either attend a three-day WAC Curriculum Development seminar or a training program that is collaboratively determined by the Director of WAC and representatives within departments that are sponsoring the courses.

  The Ad Hoc Core Curriculum Taskforce initially proposed the WAC program to ensure consistent and extensive support for student writing across the University.  Faculty training and support was deemed essential to ensure that writing was understood not merely as a means of communicating disciplinary concepts, but as a means for critical engagement of course content.  Writing Across the Curriculum is first and foremost the use of writing to learn.  To this end, Florida Atlantic University’s Writing Across the Curriculum Committee, University Undergraduate Programs Committee, and Faculty Senate have determined that specialized WAC training is important if the WAC program is to be consistent, sustained, and successful.

  Every spring, the WAC Director hosts a three day curriculum seminar for faculty who are developing new courses or helping their departments re-examine the use of writing in their curricula.  At other times during the year, other seminars are offered at the departmental level with support and assistance from the Director and Assistant Director of the Writing Across the Curriculum program.  The benefits of such training include the following:

  • Special seminars and training workshops can establish a consistent set of pedagogical values that are transferable across the disciplines. 
 • WAC training creates opportunities for increased collaboration among faculty—building coalitions among individuals and disciplines. 
 • The training requirement assists in distributing the responsibility for supporting student writing.

  Beginning Spring 2008, all faculty members teaching WAC courses for the first time may do so without training, but only for a single semester.  Those faculty members must participate in a WAC seminar before teaching another WAC course.  The WAC Director is working with departments across the university to ensure that a realistic support schedule is available.

  The WAC Committee realizes that exceptions will arise occasionally.  In these cases, department heads are asked to request in writing an exception from the WAC Committee by submitting a request to the WAC Committee chair or the Director of WAC.  Once an exception is granted, the WAC Director will work with the department to provide the necessary support in a timely manner.   Complete details of the syllabus approval process can be found on our website under the heading Course Approval Process .
( http://www.fau.edu/WAC/designing/approval.php

 

 

  GENERAL CRITERIA:

  The following criteria  are not intended to and should not be used to evaluate faculty performance.  Each criterion serves to assist faculty and students in identifying and achieving course objectives.  To receive a WAC designation, the 3-credit course, capped at 27 students, will provide a syllabus that does the following:

  1. All WAC syllabi must inform students of the writing-intensive nature of the course and explain how the course fulfills the state-mandated Gordon Rule requirements and the FAU WAC requirements below. 

  This statement should appear early in the syllabus for the benefit of students who are working toward the completion of their Gordon Rule and WAC course requirements.

  To fulfill the State’s Gordon Rule requirement, students must complete:

  •   Six (6) semester hours of English coursework.      
  • Six (6) semester hours of additional coursework in which the student is required to demonstrate college-level writing skills
         through multiple assignments.

  To satisfy FAU’s WAC requirement, students must:

  • Complete successfully ENC 1101 with a grade of “C” or better.
  • Complete ENC 1102 (or a WAC course that has been approved as a substitute for ENC 1102) with a grade or “C” or better. 
  • Complete successfully two additional 2000-4000 level WAC certified courses with a grade of “C” or better. 

  The syllabus should make clear that WAC courses are designed explicitly to utilize writing for engaging course content—writing to learn.

  Writing to learn involves:

  • Developing increased understanding and proficiency. 
  • Acquiring course content.
  • Understanding accepted disciplinary forms, discourses, and values.
  • Revising to explore, reconsider, and strengthen the written presentation of concepts and ideas.

    The following language can be used or adapted as a means of satisfying this criterion:

 

  This writing intensive course serves as one of two "Gordon Rule" classes at the 2000-4000 level that must be taken after completing ENC 1101 and 1102 or their equivalents.  You must achieve a grade of "C" (not C-minus) or better to receive credit.  Furthermore, this class meets the University-wide Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) criteria, which expect you to improve your writing over the course of the term. The University’s WAC program promotes the teaching of writing across all levels and all disciplines. Writing-to-learn activities have proven effective in developing critical thinking skills, learning discipline-specific content, and understanding and building competence in the modes of inquiry and writing for various disciplines and professions.

 

  Syllabi in a variety of fields can be found in the Approved Courses section of the WAC website. ( http://www.fau.edu/WAC/courses/approved.php )

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  2. All WAC Syllabi must include assignments that promote critical thinking, reading of sustained and challenging texts, and analytical writing. 

The purpose of writing across the curriculum is to help students better engage the content of the course in thoughtful and reflective ways.  WAC pedagogy assumes that:

  • Engaged reading, writing, and learning are closely tied.
  • Courses should incorporate frequent writing assignments that help students learn the subject matter of the course as well
    as 
    discipline- specific ways of thinking and writing.
  • Short, often ungraded, writing assignments can help students reflect on and engage course content that lectures and exams cannot (writing to learn activities).
  • Writing assignments should be sequenced so that the readings inform each other and provide opportunities for reinterpretation and revisions across the term. 
  • Knowledge acquired in the disciplines within the context of analytical writing is more likely to transfer to other courses than memorized facts. 

  John Bean argues that “mastering a field means joining its discourse […] demonstrating one’s ability to mount arguments in response to disciplinary problems” (187).  He suggests that even exam writing and timed writings can guide this process if we “[teach] students how to write essay exams,” […] build more opportunities for process [writing] into the exam setting, […improve] the focus and clarity of our exam questions, and […establish] more consistent grading criteria and [improve] grading methods to improve reliability” (187). 

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  3. WAC syllabi should include at least two graded writing assignments completed out of class, one of which must be an individually or collaboratively written, substantial, thesis-driven paper (a revision is a substantial reworking of a draft as distinct from editing and correction of surface errors).

  Multiple, graded writing projects that are completed out of class ensure that students have more than one opportunity to write for a grade.  Writing completed outside the classroom allows students to work through complex issues without the initial pressure of conforming to conventions or managing rigid time constraints.  The writing serves as a vehicle for learning.  To fulfill this criterion, faculty may create a longer assignment that can be completed in stages that also includes revision. Revision is a central tenet of WAC pedagogy that allows students to: 

Work through logic

  • Generate, reflect on, and clarify ideas
  • Recognize when further justification/support/evidence is needed
  • Learn from their experiences
  • Focus on organization and structure
  • Write initial drafts without the pressure of conforming to conventions or managing rigid time constraints

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  4. The syllabus must make it clear that writing assignments will count for at least 50% of the course grade. 

 This criterion identifies writing as a tool for learning.  When writing counts for half of the overall course grade, a student cannot successfully pass without demonstrating writing proficiency.  “Graded writing” typically means formal writing assignments that are graded based on writing quality – academic argument, organization, format, sentence level concerns, etc.  However, not all writing needs to be graded, and not all writing or grading has to take the same amount of effort and time.  Informal writing may also contribute to the course grade.  As a rule of thumb, students should not be allowed to pass the course unless their writing meets the standards for average college-level work. (Outcome goals on WAC website http://www.fau.edu/WAC/designing/outcome.php ).  Most syllabi assign at least 50% of students' course grade as formally graded writing assignments.

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  5. The syllabus must provide a clear, written description of each graded writing assignment and its evaluation criteria. 

  While most faculty provide written descriptions of assignments at the time they are assigned, an early explanation of writing assignments in the syllabus, along with general grading criteria, provides students and the WAC Committee with:

  • A clear representation of the assignment expectations and objectives.
  • Insight into the relationship between reading and writing in the course.
  • An idea of how writing assignments are distributed across the term.
  • An advance understanding of how each assignment will be evaluated.

  Typically, these descriptions are a few sentences long, describing the central features of the project and the general criteria for grading.  There is no need to incorporate full writing assignment descriptions in the syllabus. 

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  6. Approved syllabi include a schedule for writing assignments that allocates class time for discussing strategies to improve student writing. 

  Typically, when faculty allocate these relatively small blocks of time to discussions of student writing, more substantial amounts of evaluation and grading time can be saved. The WAC Committee reviews the class schedule to confirm that the writing components can be managed effectively.

 These schedules may be full, daily calendars of writing assignments or weekly summaries.  Faculty are encouraged to review a few examples of schedules found in Approved Courses. (http://www.fau.edu/WAC/courses/approved.php

 

  Some class time scheduling options include:

  • Discussion of assignments and of evaluation criteria.
  • Analysis and discussion of sample student papers, including writing-in-progress and formal drafts.
  • Peer group activities that prepare students to write a particular paper, such as sharing and discussion of plans, outlines, strategies,
    theses and drafts.
  • Discussion or presentations of students' research in progress.
  • Instruction about how to write a particular type of paper or solving a common writing problem.
  • Discussion of writing particular elements of a paper such as thesis statements, introductions, topic sentences, conclusions, etc.

  More often than not, WAC courses include peer review of student papers and in-class discussions of promising student work in need of revision.

  Devoting class time to focus on understanding assignments and developing writing strategies helps students to:

  • Submit essays that respond more effectively to their assignments.
  • Gain opportunities to develop writing and revision strategies.
  • Have sufficient time to draft their assignments.
  • Develop increased facility in managing discipline-specific writing and the conventions of academic writing.
  • Plan their time for the semester.
  • Receive substantive feedback.
  • Revise more effectively.

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  7. WAC syllabi require students to make a substantial revision  of at least one graded, thesis-driven, out-of-class
writing assignment.

 

Assignments that require students to perform substantial, “global” revisions can easily satisfy this criterion.  A global revision is a major re-working/re-thinking of the paper.  Substantial elements of the paper are re-focused, rearranged, added, or removed.  Assertions are qualified, explained in more precise detail, or supported through the use of appropriate assigned texts and source materials.  In sum, global revisions do more than refine word choices, polish sentences, or edit grammatical and proofreading errors.  Global revision requires a substantive amount of writing.

 

  No matter how much we exhort students to write several drafts and to collaborate with peers, most of them will continue to write their papers the night before they are due unless we structure our courses to promote writing as a process. Revision of formal writing is an essential part of the process; it helps students to:

  • Clarify their ideas.
  • Recognize their strengths.
  • Learn from their experience.
  • Uncover and better engage subtle aspects of an assignment.  

Students should be guided toward revising elements such as logic, organization, concepts, and interpretations before they edit.  Proofreading and editing should be explained as the final steps in producing their texts. 

Often faculty perceive the need to correct all errors.  Doing so, however, requires an extraordinary amount of time for faculty and takes responsibility away from students.  Instead, faculty are strongly encouraged to help students to employ correct and conventional English by developing a set of strategies for tracking their own patterns of error. Students need help developing systems for:

  • Identifying and understanding the patterns of error recurrent in their own writing.
  • Taking responsibility for proofreading and correcting their patterns of error and idiosyncratic (one-time) mistakes.

  All students are invited to use University Center for Excellence in Writing (UCEW) error tracking system, which is available on the side menu of the UCEW website under Error Log, here www.fau.edu/UCEW .   With this system, students will have access to an error log that they can continually update and copy into MS Word documents.  .  NOTE:  faculty should be aware that the UCEW does not offer proofreading services.  Additional information about the UCEW services is available at the url above.

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  8. The syllabus should include an explanation of how students will receive substantive feedback on graded assignments and drafts that students are required to revise.

  Such formative assessment typically provides comments that elicit:

  • Re-examination of problems.
  • Restructuring of logic and/or ideas.
  • More appropriate or careful responses to the assignment.

Comments often address the argument, intellectual content, organization, and formatting of drafts and set specific goals for revision.  Typically, a brief statement is included in the syllabus that explains when formal commentary will be provided. 

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  9. Approved WAC syllabi require each student to write a target of 5,000 words (+ or – 1,000 words).

This target is intended to help professors gauge the minimal amount of writing that is typically considered appropriate for WAC syllabi.  The state no longer maintains a word count target that students must achieve to fulfill Gordon Rule credit. WAC syllabi need not make specific note of the word count.  Reviewers examine the page requirements listed in the assignment details and assume that each page represents between 250 and 300 words.  Substantial revisions and informal writing tasks count toward the targeted word count for the course.

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  10. All WAC Approved Syllabi must contain the following language informing s tudents about the University-wide
WAC Assessment project:

  If this class is selected to participate in the university-wide WAC assessment program, you will be required to access the online assessment server, complete the consent form and survey, and submit electronically a first and final draft of a near-end-of-term paper.

 

The Writing Across the Curriculum program has developed an assessment program to determine the impact that the WAC program is having on student writing.  Approximately 15-20 classes each fall and spring and 5-10 over the summer will be randomly selected to participate in the assessment project, a total of about 500 students a year.  To participate, students must log onto a specially designed web interface with their FAU ID, submit a first and revised draft of a thesis-driven, near-end-of-term paper and take a 21-question survey.  All course and student information will be removed from the files.  The assessment will not affect course grades in any way.  No faculty members will be identifiable once the data is collected.  Raters are normed with a campus-wide rubric.  They rate the sets of papers, and then the data is downloaded into statistical software for examination.  If students consent to have their data included in an IRB-approved study, the results from their surveys and rated papers will be pooled with additional data from the office of Institutional Effectiveness.  Once gathered, all identifying information from the surveys will be removed, and the data will be analyzed. We plan to publish the results of the assessment, the web interface we have designed, and our procedures.  We will use the data to improve the WAC program on campus.

On December 7th, 2007, the Faculty Senate approved a mandate that all students in selected classes must participate in the assessment process.  Faculty whose classes are selected play an essential role in this process.  They must introduce and enforce the mandate.  Near the beginning of each term, the randomly selected faculty members will be notified of the assessment procedures in an emailed memo explaining the process. Further information with directions to help their students participate will be sent over email near midterm.  Students will also be notified individually via email with the necessary information (faculty will be included on all communication with their students).  Upon completion of the consent form, paper uploads, and survey, students will receive an automated receipt of participation.  About a week before classes are over, faculty will receive an automated list of all students from their class who have submitted their materials.  Faculty will need to remind students who have not yet participated to do so.  Faculty receive another update on the last day of classes, when all papers are required to be submitted.  Students will have one additional chance to submit their work by the date of the final exam for the class.  Faculty are discouraged from offering incentives to students for participation.

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